Returning MAX safely to service is Boeing’s “top priority”

June 17, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing executives focused on its top priority, returning the grounded 737 MAX, safely to service, in its lead off briefing today at the Paris Air Show.

Greg Smith, EVP of The Boeing Co., appeared instead of CEO Dennis Muilenburg, taking the lead in recapping much of what has been known for weeks: Boeing’s regret for the 346 fatalities in the Lion Air and Ethiopian accidents, the MCAS software upgrade and working with airlines and regulators to determine the path back to recertifying the MCAS and the best curriculum for pilot training.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister, Defense unit CEO Leanne Caret and Global Services unit CEO Stan Deal followed Smith in a tightly scripted set of presentations and answers to questions.

The four immediately left the stage after the Q&A instead of loitering for the usual press gaggles.

Returning MAX to service

The executives offered no estimate when regulators will lift the global grounding orders that idled nearly 400 737-8s and -9s. Flight testing by the US Federal Aviation Administration of the MCAS software upgrade hasn’t taken place yet, and the FAA will be the lead agency to recertify the MCAS software.

McAllister said the upgrade will offer three layers of protection to prevent another MCAS accident. He didn’t detail these layers, but previously Boeing indicated the MCAS will be linked to two, not one, Angle of Attack sensors; repetitive engagement of MCAS is eliminated; and AOA disagree will block MCAS from activating.

McAllister said Boeing already has held meetings in eight global cities, meeting with pilots and airlines as part of the preparation to return the MAX to service.

Deal, the Global Services CEO, acknowledged BGS will have a role in returning the grounded MAXes to service through pilot training, but offered no additional detail.

LNA earlier today identified the huge logistical challenge BGS and Boeing face in returning the MAX to service.

McAllister said each of the grounded airplanes will be treated as a new entry into service aircraft

No News on NMA

Smith and McAllister offered no new news on the prospect of launching the New Midmarket Airplane. Citing the continued need to close the business case, McAllister said advanced manufacturing, digital design and wrapping Boeing Global Services into the business case is required.

Boeing first started talking about the “757 replacement” in 2012 and has been attempting to create and close a business case ever since.

McAllister said that “if we do” close the business case, the NMA will offer twin aisle comfort at single aisle airplane costs. The latter is a long-running refrain. The former is an ambiguity adopted by CEO Muilenburg at an investment bank conference several months ago.

Foreign object debris

Defense CEO Caret, asked about foreign object debris found in the KC-46A tanker after first deliveries to the US Air Force, ducked the question whether there is a deeply rooted problem in Boeing.

Rather, she said the presence of FOD is unacceptable any time and vowed to the customer—the Air Force—it wouldn’t happen again.


14 Comments on “Returning MAX safely to service is Boeing’s “top priority”

  1. I think they have realized Denis Muilenburg can’t cope with this sort of event. greg Smith has proven far more successful at painting black as white with a straight face. I bet it was tightly scripted..

  2. No 797 lauch, as they still have no production system available in which they could make the CFRP ovoid fuselage and slender wings. The only technology available currently is tape laying, and no matter if you make barrels or panels, this will bring the production cost beyond an A330neo. A possible solution could be RTM, but never before parts of this size have been made in this technology.

    2025 is a joke, and not even a good one, as not even an engine would be available by then, and everybody involved know this perfectly well.

    Why is Boeing offering no indication as to when the MAX will return to service? Simply because they haven’t found a solution that would pass the inspection of the authorities and be approved by pilots and airlines worldwide.

    The implications of hardware changes are enormous and it appears they are not ready to bite the bullet.

    • I think you’re right about why Boeing aren’t saying when it’ll be back in the sky.

      At some point they’re probably going to have to admit defeat on the current design of the MAX and change something significant. Whatever they choose to do, I can’t see it being NG-compatible so far as certification, pilot type rating and aircrew training are concerned.

      The strength of Airbus’s strategy is now staggeringly apparent; properly implemented FBW across their entire range, similar handling across the fleet, minimal pilot training differences, etc. From an airline’s point of view it must be a wet dream to introduce a new Airbus in amongst a fleet of existing Airbuses. “What do I need to change?” they ask. “Well, almost nothing” is the reply.

      Suppose Boeing decide now to do the NSA, and Airbus decide to respond to that with a new design too. With the Boeing it’ll be “you have to completely retrain all your pilots”. With the Airbus design, it’ll be “just give them the keys and send them off”. Boeing haven’t got a hope of woeing existing Airbus operators, and there’s likely plenty of Boeing operators who right now probably wish they’d got Airbuses.

  3. „[…] it wouldn’t happen again.“
    Didn’t Boeing told that USAF before delivery was stopped a second time due to FOD?

  4. “We need to close the business case for the 797″….meanwhile Airbus will sell another 1,000+ A321NEO’s in various forms.

    • If it takes BA this long to close the business case for the 797, I would suggest there is no business case for the 797.

      BA really want to make the 797 regardless, so they will. In my view this is a mistake, we shall see.

      • Agreed, especially as Airbus now have orders for A321XLR. Rumours are they’ve got a lot of orders lined up to announce for that aircraft this week. Not bad for a “niche”.

        Boeing may well build the 797 anyway, but by the time they do so Airbus will likely have saturated the market already. Had Boeing done a proper 737 replacement instead of the MAX, they’d likely now be able to directly challenge the A321XLR with an NSA-XLR. But they didn’t, and so they can’t.

  5. I don’t believe the Boeing execs anymore. Unless they can convince Sully Sullenberger to testify that the MAX fixes are safe, I’ll keep flying on Airbus planes.

    Not that they are perfect, far from it, but I just don’t trust Boeing.

    If it’s Boeing, I ain’t going.

    • Good one. Hope it catches on. Boeing is thinking of rebranding the Max. Screamliner, anyone?
      I honestly will not fly the Max ever. I fly A LOT and all I can think about is the roller coaster ride all those victims must have had. They must have all known something was wrong and been screaming as the planed dropped and lifted and then nosedived again. You don’t do that to people, Boeing. A defective valve, yes. Mistakes happen. This was systemic failure, corporate greed, and gambling with people’s lives. To say, let’s rebrand it, is more evidence of the let’s deceive customers and keep the orders rolling in corporate playbook. Imagine if the makers of Contergan had said, let’s rename it…. Here we want informed customer decision making and total transparency so WE can choose if we trust the update to fly with the Max again and Boeing is hoping to bamboozle people back on board.

  6. If they gut MCAS to make it safe, then you put a more stall prone plane into the air and that will require a huge amount of simulator training. Its a dogs breakfast woof woof. Rather then angle of attack sensors can that not use solid state attitude senors like on cell phones? All you are really trying to detect is a sudden change in attaiytude no?

  7. Why MCAs was installed in the first place? Obviously, the MAX has the tendency to attain a higher angle of attack near stall by itself. In that case, a larger elevator would provide the correcting moment for neutral stability. A larger elevator is clearly not an option and an MCAS system is needed. Does the flight controller have the required safety and redundancy features for such an critical task? Is thus a new FBW controller required? What is being done, when the sensors disagree due to damage by hail or bird strike? Disengaging MCAS in midflight requires a reduced flight envelope. What configuration has to be selected? Is the ETOPS certification still achievable if the configuration calls for flaps down and landing at the closest airfield? Ipad training does not suffice and a full simulator is needed. Retraining and licencing pilots takes time and cost a lot while there are not enough simulators available. What about the manual elevator trim wheel? This also concerns the NG. Different scenarios are possible, where the MAX is trimmed nose down (e.g., rapid descent due to inflight emergency) and the runaway electric trim must be disengaged. Do the small trim wheels on the NG and MAX suffice to bring the plane back to level? Does a second electric trim feature needs to be implemented? Can MCAS be separately switched of from the electric trim and is MCAS switched off when the elevator trim must be shut off? These and possibly others (e.g., documentation) are just too many unresolved issues that I think are unlikely to be solved this year.

  8. Boeing employee: I would not put my family on a Max plane right now

    “I think about my children and I think about my wife and how much they mean to me, but my career means a lot to me as well,” he said. “If I had to go up to those test flights, I would. Would I send my family on a flight right now? No. Not in a million years.”

    Stuart (not his real name) works more with the 777X model, not the Max that has garnered negative press. The 777x has made headlines, too, recently as the model has been delayed. The Seattle Times reports the 777X has an issue with its new GE9X engine. Meanwhile, the 737 Max plane remains grounded as the company scrambles to develop a fix for software problems that are blamed for two deadly crashes within a year.

    An issue with the recent Max crashes seems to be that pilots were unaware of new software systems on new models. Stuart alleges that Boeing leadership previously told employees that it was the responsibility of the companies who bought the aircraft to teach the pilots about these systems – such as the MCAS system that failed in two Max planes, causing crashes.

    “All I know is that, the way things are going right now, as far as I’ve talked to my co-workers, a lot of my managers, is we were lied to,” he said. “We received emails, we saw the videos, we were told certain things such as ‘the companies that bought these planes, a lot of them, their countries didn’t require them to go through the test flight process that needed to happen.’ So we were told, ‘Hey, that’s not on us, that’s on them. We have this program, they’re suppose to take it, they don’t have to take it, that teaches them how to use this thing.’”

    Stuart says that he wants to trust Boeing’s CEO and other management.

    “I want to,” he said. “I want to think that I work for one of the best companies in the world. I want to think that when I come home from a 10-12 hour shift that I’ve done something good. But I don’t know because I see the lies. They’re going back on everything that they’ve told us. So it’s really difficult for me to feel good about any of it.”

  9. Boeing : FOD in KC-46 will not happen again
    Air Force: We expect to find FOD in every plane for the forseeable future

    That pretty much says it all for Boeings credibility

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *